Keeper's Box - Success is up to the Player
December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
The keys to being a successful keeper:
1. Believe in yourself: In the soccer world, everyone has an opinion on players, and especially on goalkeepers. Listen to everyone, but select only the thoughts and ideas that you believe are valuable to you. Do not take that as a license to disregard everyone, but as an opportunity to learn from everyone. Each coach or player will have useful information that you can use to become better a goalkeeper. You just have to decipher which nuggets of information will mold, motivate and enlighten you.
2. Hard Work: Field players will always give keepers a hard time about not working hard in games, but come practice time, it is the keepers that should work harder than anyone on the field. As a keeper you need to prepare yourself to practice as hard as you can, because mistakes are unacceptable in games. Train as close to match speed as possible. The dedication to work ethic will allow you to make the big save when it is needed.
3. Focus and Concentration: As I said, there are no acceptable mistakes for keepers. As a result, a keeper must concentrate and focus on the task at hand every time they step on the field. This is paramount to success. I've played in several games over my career where I've had nothing to do until the last minute of the game. It is that save or decision that can determine a win or a loss.
4. Competition: Goalkeepers, perhaps even more than field, get better with experience. Some of the best goalkeepers in the world are in their 30s! For example, Canada's, Craig Forest, is 35 and just had a breakout performance in the recent Gold Cup. My recommendation for younger goalkeepers, especially in their teens, is to play as many games as possible. When I was between the ages of 16 and 18, I would regularly play three games in a day during any given spring or summer weekend. (State team, U-19, and U-23). The more you play, the more decisions you have to make and the better you will get. Training prepares you, games polish you.
5. Confidence: As a goalkeeper, you need to be even keel at all times. Your team will hit highs and lows, but a keeper must be a rock -- composed and confident at all times. In order to make the crucial decisions and saves, a keeper must keep a clear head. This will allow keepers to play with confidence. Coaches that know goalkeepers, know that a confident keeper is usually a hot keeper.
Goalkeepers require an entirely differently mentality than field players. They are trained differently, they prepare for games differently, and they play differently, but one thing remains the same. They are part of the team - eleven players on the field working toward one goal. Your specialty is in uniform only. You win as a team. You lose as team. Your duty is to keep your team in games. Thus, you must be as sharp in the 90th minute as you were in the first. It is a motto to live by. Good luck!
Alex Deegan starred collegiately at Davidson College and played professionally for the A-League's Richmond Kickers.